The doctrine of change of circumstances (finally) codified in Belgian civil law
The economic recovery in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic, the military conflict between Russia and Ukraine and the recent skyrocketing energy and gas prices are causing a significant increase of prices of finished products, semi-finished products and raw materials, as well as supply problems for certain of these products. In many ongoing contractual relationships, this drastically disrupts the contractual balance between the parties.
As for a very long period of time Belgian civil courts systematically rejected in civil law the doctrine of change of circumstances or hardship (imprevisieleer/théorie de l’imprévision) as a valid legal basis to revise a contract, contracting parties have been forced to use creative methods to remedy the disrupted balance in their contractual relationship. These creative methods did not always result in success. However, as from 1 January 2023, contracting parties (finally) will no longer have to resort to creative methods, but will be able to rely on Article 5.74 of the new Belgian Civil Code to invoke the doctrine of change of circumstances.